The D.C. Council will consider a significant amount of legislation before it closes out Council Period 24 which ends on Dec. 31. The bills will deal with a wide range of subjects including affordable housing, public safety, improving the District’s education system and economic development.
One item that has garnered a lot of attention which the council passed on first reading on Sept. 20 is the “Players Lounge Tax Exemption Act of 2022.” The bill is named after the Players Lounge, known by locals as Georgena’s – a popular Ward 8 restaurant and bar located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. The co-owners, Steve and Georgena Thompson, are seeking the assistance of the District government in the form of a property tax exemption due to the adverse economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. To stay afloat, the Thompsons have had to tap into their personal savings and other assets.
The exemption would be granted to an entity owned by the Thompsons that manages the building which houses the business. The bill would allow them to utilize the exemption until Sept. 30, 2026, and apply it retroactively to Oct. 1, 2019. The bill was initially authored by Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) and gained the support of Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who chairs the Committee on Business and Economic Development. At the June hearing on the bill and in the Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 20, McDuffie emphasized the cultural significance of the Players Lounge and its contribution to the economy of Ward 8. During the legislative session, White said the Thompsons have fed homeless people and offered the space to community groups for meetings at reasonable rates.
The council made the right move in passing the Players Lounge bill. There are some who argue that legislation should not be used to give individual businesses a boost but in the case of the Players Lounge, their tax exemption deserves an exception. The District government should be in the business of rewarding enterprises that contribute to their neighborhoods and the city.